Author Topic: Seeking suggestions for not overspending during crisis  (Read 2421 times)

albabewick

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Seeking suggestions for not overspending during crisis
« on: March 01, 2018, 10:56:39 AM »
Hi friends,

I've been in the unfortunate position of sole caregiver to my elderly, disabled mother. In the last six months she's been diagnosed with cancer, with a string of resultant crises post surgery (c diff among them). I'm single and have a stressful time consuming job. I've missed work due to caregiving and generally find myself with very little time to tend to my own needs.


I try to eat primal/paleo whole foods, but have zero time to cook or often grocery shop. It's been several months of almost triage style living.

I've been spending a fortune on my food from local healthy cafes or whole foods and take out for mom.

Just looking for healthy food ideas or services that might curb my spending and require no prep, just microwaving. They need to be gluten and peanut free.

Thank you for your ideas!

ketchup

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Re: Seeking suggestions for not overspending during crisis
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2018, 11:18:03 AM »
Baked bone-in chicken thighs + frozen broccoli.  I make it at work almost every day. 

Pop a few (typically three, but more or less depending on their size and my hunger) bone-in chicken thighs on a cooking tray (use foil if it makes sense), dump a pound of frozen broccoli florets on there with it.  Season to taste (I like salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, and paprika).  Bake at 400F for 42 minutes.  Remove.  Allow to cool.  Eat. 

About 90 seconds of active prep time, less if you care less about the seasonings.  Also cheap.  I can get bone-in thighs for $0.99/lb and frozen broccoli florets for $1.50/lb.  $15 buys lunch all week.

EDIT: Also check if Amazon Fresh delivers in your area.  You pay a bit of a markup on meat/anything frozen, but produce is shockingly reasonably priced for the most part, and it would mean you can at least partially dodge the grocery store and save time.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2018, 11:33:12 AM by ketchup »

Lady SA

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Re: Seeking suggestions for not overspending during crisis
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2018, 11:28:03 AM »
Trader joes frozen meals? Those you can just pop in the microwave. Idk if those are paleo though, but they are quick and easy and cheaper than takeout and whole foods. There are a million different kinds of frozen meals, and trader joes does a good job with organic/healthy (and allergy friendly) options, including gluten free and nut free. I haven't looked specifically for nut free meals but I know that they definitely have frozen gluten free options.

I think trying to maintain 100% paleo during this "triage" time will be really difficult, you might look for ways to ease up in some nutritional areas if you are truly wanting something that is ready to just pop in the microwave and go. Otherwise, I'm sure that you will have to do at least some of your own prep work. I'm not getting a clear sense of what is more important to you, no food prep time or keeping your paleo diet?

Do you have any siblings or other family members who can step in sometimes to give you a break?


ChpBstrd

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Re: Seeking suggestions for not overspending during crisis
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2018, 12:26:59 PM »
Time to go raw foods. Just take a vicious-animal-like bite of things like zuchinni, brocholi, cauliflower, tomatoes, bananas, almonds and cashews. Make an "instant curry" dipping the veggies in coconut oil and mustard.

Some relatively inexpensive processed foods may get you through. A block of cheddar cheese is cheap, filling protein. Yogurt or cottage cheese do the same and are reasonable if you throw on some rasins, crasins, nuts, sunflower seeds, grapes, blueberries, etc. Avocados require some cutting work, but also supply protein. For carbs, act like a toddler parent and carry around a sack of multigrain cheerios, which are GF. The big boxes are cheaper per ounce. Consolidating large, economical containers of such items into meal-sized containers takes time but cost half as much. Buy both container sizes and consolidate the big containers when time allows.

In the frozen section, you can buy pre-chopped soup mixes. This plus broth plus canned beans equals about four meals for about $5. Frozen edamame or lima beans are cheap frozen protein. Fake meats like "ground beef" is easier to microwave than real meats. Fake beef + cheese + tortilla + whatever vegg = taco.

In reality, some prep will be needed. Get a large crock pot with timer and devote half an hour to making a week's worth of chili, lentil stew, vegetable soup with beans, baked sweet potatoes, hard boiled eggs, etc. This can cook while you're at work, turn itself down to warming, and be ready to scarf or containerize when you get home.

LWYRUP

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Re: Seeking suggestions for not overspending during crisis
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2018, 12:39:50 PM »

Thank you for being there for your mom during a difficult time.  I know things must be really difficult right now.

Things will get better, in the meantime just try to do the best you can.  I hope you aren't falling behind on bills, racking up credit card debt, etc. but if your savings rate drops for a temporary period sometimes that is just what happens.

Anyways I agree with the above posters but try not to put too much pressure on yourself right now other than taking things as they come. 

the_fixer

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Re: Seeking suggestions for not overspending during crisis
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2018, 12:54:41 PM »
Not sure about other dietary considerations but I keep a few of the following Paleo microwave meals in the fridge to keep me from ordering out and they taste pretty good.

http://www.tastefullyplated.com

Soup is also a go to for keeping around the house, we make a huge pot and freeze it and it will last us months for a few hours of work.

We cheat and use a rotisserie chicken for our chicken soup other than that we just throw some vegetables and rice (substitute what works for you) in a pot and it is better than anything you can buy in the store. Cheap and easy and you can make a few different varieties.

_-------
Another easy one is pot roast. 1 pot gets used and a cutting board so minimal cleanup.

Chuck roast, red potatoes, yellow sweet onion, carrots, beef broth olive oil.

Salt and pepper the roast then brown it in the pot you are going to cook it in on both side with a small amount of olive oil & the onions. Heat oven to 275 put broth to where it almost covers the roast but the top is clear. Cook it in the over for about 6 hours (3lb of meat). After 6 hours cut the potato's / carrots (you can use the pre packaged baby carrots if you want to save a few mins washing / cutting the carrots) in with the roast for an additional 45 min or until the vegetables are the consistency you would like.

15 - 20 mins of effort total.


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« Last Edit: March 01, 2018, 02:19:04 PM by the_fixer »

neil

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Re: Seeking suggestions for not overspending during crisis
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2018, 01:03:47 PM »
Odds are, you've eaten everything you'd make at least once; pick a couple of simple ideas and the bare minimum it would take to make it.  In my experience, asking for recipes doesn't help solve the problem because you'll sit there and analyze them, spend effort to get it right, whatever.  If you're open to tacos, great! Buy a bulk pack of gluten free tortillas, beans, cheese, put it together on a plate and microwave it.  Whatever!  It's not magic.

In the end, I've found it takes less time to grocery shop+cook if you have low ingredient meals you can tolerate.  It's kind of up to you what those meals might be.  You're not looking for a culinary experience, just body requirements.  From a price perspective, don't shop for price, shop for need and get it done quickly - and it will still be vastly cheaper than outsourcing it to restaurants.  As someone with dietary requirements, it may be even simpler than trying to figure out what takeout foods you can eat.

The simplest thing you can think of will convert into routine the fastest, and save you time and energy.  You can level up your skills later and as you go, you just need a starter kit.  And if you are still eating out 50% of the time, it's still better than 100%.  It's not a sprint.

katstache92

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Re: Seeking suggestions for not overspending during crisis
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2018, 01:05:15 PM »
Thank you for being there for your mom.  I recently went through a much shorter time period of a similar situation.  You are extremely strong.

I don't have much advice for you other than making sure you get enough sleep.

I certainly did not do well on the food front while this was going on and I admire the fact that you are trying to be focused on that as well.

galliver

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Re: Seeking suggestions for not overspending during crisis
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2018, 01:29:08 PM »
Sorry to hear you are going through a tough time, OP. In large part, I'm with blinx7:


Thank you for being there for your mom during a difficult time.  I know things must be really difficult right now.

Things will get better, in the meantime just try to do the best you can.  I hope you aren't falling behind on bills, racking up credit card debt, etc. but if your savings rate drops for a temporary period sometimes that is just what happens.

Anyways I agree with the above posters but try not to put too much pressure on yourself right now other than taking things as they come. 

The philosophy espoused on this site is largely about optimizing, but it feels like sometimes we forget that the reason we optimize and save is to have wiggle room, to have freedom and relief from stress. A crisis that lasts months certainly feels long (I...kind of know, though in my situation it's far less of a personal crisis), but in the end even months or a year or few years of your life is still a small part of your life (and earnings).

That said, some things I might try, or have tried:

Meats:
-Frozen, grilled chicken or steak pieces. You can buy them refrigerated or frozen. Not as good or as tasty as you'd do yourself, but ok for topping a salad or throwing in soup.
-Ham steaks (refrigerated)...cube it all at once and then toss on things.
-Shrimp aren't the cheapest, but they cook in a minute or two from frozen, so a quick way to add protein to things (like the simple soup, above).
-I used to get pre-seasoned tilapia and salmon portions I could stick in the toaster oven (I think they even came with a tray?) Not breaded.
-Frozen meatballs are often quite good, too.
-Rotisserie chicken+any of the above veg options make a decent couple meals.
-Eggs! Scrambled with anything, sunny side, hard boiled...

Vegetables:
-Bagged salad mixes...not just the greens but all-in one. Zero mental energy required (I like the kale, brussel sprout, cranberry ones, but there's lots of options for different tastes and variety)
-Pre-cut/trimmed vegetables like broccoli, green beans, etc. Just grab a handful and steam in the microwave for 1-3 mins. If you can get a microwave steamer it comes out even better...https://www.amazon.com/Sistema-Microwave-Cookware-Steamer-13-625/dp/B005D6XZ4O (We got ours at the Asian grocery store for $6)
-Frozen veg steamable packets (I am not a big fan of frozen broccoli but many people are ok with it)
-Frozen vegetables+broth (boxed, better-than-boullion) or a simple soup (tomato, cream of ...) makes...a darn good soup. Add meat as desired.

Most of these are not the cheapest, you won't get to a $200 grocery bill with them...but they are cheaper than takeout, and you can pick up a bunch at once so you don't have to get food every day. You can also very likely get them delivered with something like peapod, instacart, amazon fresh, whatever operates in your area? I haven't used these but I've heard people swear by them!

Best of luck! Hang in there.

okits

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Re: Seeking suggestions for not overspending during crisis
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2018, 01:41:51 PM »
Perhaps this thread will help.

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/aussie-keeping-yourself-fed-when-running-low-on-spoons/

I hope your mother gets better.  Hang in there!

PKate

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Re: Seeking suggestions for not overspending during crisis
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2018, 02:16:14 PM »
I keep cheddar cheese, hard boiled eggs, and cooked ham on hand for days when I can't function. 

I love bags of frozen veggies.  My sister gets the microwave in the bag kind for her really bad days.   

Low effort foods that can be cooked and frozen ahead of time.

I get a couple of packages of chicken organic chicken thighs and put them in a lasagna pan.  I squirt them with lime  juice and sprinkle salt and pepper.   I bake all of them at 350 for a half hour or so.  I use the thighs because they handle being reheated in the microwave better.   I split up the leftovers and toss them into plastic containers with a handful of still frozen veggies.   They all go in the freezer.  For the work of one meal and an extra couple of minutes I can put another 1/2 dozen individual meals together.  Prep time is 2 minutes to put the chicken in the oven and setting a timer for 25 minutes.  At 30 minutes I put the frozen veggies of the evening on the stove.  Once the veggies are boiling I serve dinner.   This model can be done with anything. 

I know you eat paleo but if your mother eats rice brown rice freezes and reheats so much better than white rice.   It works well in home made frozen meals.   

If I have the energy to cook at all I ways make extra and pack up the left overs for lunches and meals when I can't function.   

Crock pot cooking with pre cut veggies is another option.  My sister's family is in crisis mode for years due to her and her sons' illnesses.   Buying pre cut and frozen veggies is the easiest and fastest way to make sure they all eat veggies.  Chili, soups, stew, pot roast, and pulled pork are easy to make paleo versions in a crock pot and they all freeze well. 

I admit we eat a lot of scrambles eggs and bunless cheeseburgers in my house.  I keeps us fed and I can cook it with very little time or effort.   

fuzzy math

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Re: Seeking suggestions for not overspending during crisis
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2018, 07:10:57 PM »
I take call and get paged into work. It often means I have 3 minutes to prepare food. I keep bags of nuts at work, fruit bars etc and I've been known to eat 2 hotdogs in the car (no bun) while responding to a page. Not every meal has to be glamorous. On the days you have time, make something good. When you're tired a couple organic grass fed hotdogs will still provide nutrition